Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde
(Ardis, David and Philip Hyde in Their Camper. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 12.”)
Part Thirteen: Juneau, Alaska To The Haines Highway, Canada
Thursday, July 8, 1971: We woke up at 5:45 am, dressed and looked out to another clear, sunny day with the water of the Inland Passage glassy and smooth again. We drove back over the bridge to Juneau and out the south road as far as we could go. We stopped once to watch eagles: two adult, three immature and two crows around a fresh kill on the tidewater flat. David stayed asleep until we parked in the Alaska Ferry lot, checking in about 6:45 am. I cooked and we ate breakfast while waiting to leave. Philip took photographs of the Alaska Ferry “Taku” coming in at 8:00 am. Taku made a late departure at 10:00 am because there were many semi trailers to load and numerous cars on standby. This leg of the Inland Passage was the most beautiful so far with high, snowy peaks close on both sides of the Inland Passage and glaciers along the West. At last we saw a whale, a humpback whale, flapping his flukes and blowing as a continuous repeated exercise for about 5 minutes. We could clearly see the humpback whale without binoculars. Later a school of porpoises cavorted in sight of Taku. Most of the six hour passage we spent reading the Slickrock proofs. Philip took pictures from the deck with his Hasselblad 2 ¼. We ate a bag lunch while sitting in the quieter aft lounge. As we came into Haines, Alaska, a layer of mill smoke hung over town. Each sunny day, this being the warmest so far at 74 degrees Fahrenheit, seemed to bring more haziness in the towns. Our first objective on arriving in Haines was to find a garage that could lube the GMC Truck. We found Haines Automotive and left our Camper there at 5:00 pm to walk down to the port and back by 6:00 pm when we picked the finished truck up. Haines was a small town with the atmosphere of one out in the bush. Haines lies in a gorgeous setting in a valley sloping to the sea with high snow covered peaks ringing the valley. The town of Haines was ugly and seemingly oblivious to the surrounding beauty. Most of the streets of Haines were gravel, on which cars went too fast producing lots of dust. Temperatures were even warmer in the sun with no breeze. We were delighted to find a cleaner, fresher wooded place to go for our dinner and the night at Portage Cove Campground. We arrived in beautiful light. The black rock strewn beach provided a good foreground. One huge fan of rock thrust upright, veined with white quartz. Philip included this rock in several 4X5 photographs. He did the same with an ancient overturned snag complete with spreading roots. Earlier this snag had been David’s airplane. After a dinner of beans cooked earlier in Juneau, cabbage salad and a root beer float for dessert, we watched the sun set behind the mountains earlier than usual at 10:00 pm. We were at the end of the road, along which even as we were trying to go to sleep more campers and autos came in looking for a place to camp for the night. Soon the whole Portage Cove Campground was jammed. We missed the Chilkat Dancers as it was not their night to dance. We had the camper windows open all night. Lovely clouds frothed over Portage Cove.
Friday, July 9, 1971: Clouds filled the sky, but not across the sun. Rain showers darkened some areas while the sun illuminated others. The day began warm while we spent another hour in town getting gas, headlight protectors, propane and groceries. David still ruminated over death presumably reflecting on Grandmother Oliver’s passing. “I’ll bury you when you die mommy,” He said in his most solicitous voice. “I’ll bury you when you die too, Daddy. ‘Cause I was born after you.” Meanwhile, Philip had his 4X5 Baby Deardorff view camera ready for action while the stops for pictures started soon out of Haines. The Chilkat River ran broad and flat here. At mile 13, we made stops for lily blooms in a pond with mountains as a backdrop. We made it to Kluckwan, Alaska by about noon. We took the bypass road through the small Indian village and stopped as we entered town where we saw a cemetery. We looked in vain for carved tomb markers such as we heard talked about in the Haines grocery store. As we came into Kluckwan proper we stopped again for Philip to get architectural details of an old frame house on film. Then on through the village to another cemetery where we again looked for carved tomb markers with similar results. We ate lunch situated on a gravel flat of the Chilkat River that was overgrown with cottonwoods, wild rose, Queen Anne’s lace and some spruce. It was 76 degrees outside and 85 in the camper. We drove out to the main road the way we came in, admiring the grandeur of the scenery all the way. The high mountain peaks were heavy with snow making them extra impressive. We stopped at the Canadian border to put on our headlight guards. The gravel road, from here on called the Haines Highway, began and proved more even than the beat up paved road on the US side in Alaska on which we could not exceed 30 mph. Soon we were climbing out of the Chilkat Valley. Near Guardsman Summit at Mile 55 we stopped for pictures of flowers. Here we were out of the forest and rolling across a low cover of alder across Chilkat Pass, Philip making view camera photographs on the north side. We made a dinner stop on a little further. Rain slid down the sky to the north while the wind blew hard. The rain swept across, over us, past quickly and it cleared again. David found a rusty chain outside and pretended he was mountain climbing on a low bank formed by a bulldozer blade. Later Philip found the other side of the low ridge was a very steep slope straight down to Nadahini Creek. After dinner and another blow and rain squall we pulled back onto the road for a little more driving. We continued to about mile 108 where we found a borrow pit to park in for the night. I baked bread. Though it was unleavened I let it sit overnight and it did rise a little.
Continued in the next blog post in the series, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 14.”